EU farming talks fail to reach Cap deal

Governments are pushing to limit a move to share out subsidies more evenly among farmers

Standardising payments would broadly reduce payments to large tillage and beef farmers

Standardising payments would broadly reduce payments to large tillage and beef farmers

 

Negotiations to set the rules on how the European Union will dole out €387 billion in Common Agricultural Policy (Cap) farming subsidies and rural development funds over the next seven years broke up without agreement early Friday.

Two days and nights of talks failed to produce an accord between the European Parliament and European Council as national governments pushed to lower the amount of money earmarked for green eco-schemes and limit a move to share out subsidies more evenly among farmers.

“Unfortunately it hasn’t reached agreement. There will be more discussions tomorrow morning, but the Council finished this evening without agreement and it will have to wait now until the next time the Council recommences,” Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue said.

He added more work would be done in the “days and weeks ahead”.

“I worked very hard to try and get an agreement, but it had to be one that worked for Ireland and worked for Irish farmers and worked for our country, and importantly that gave us the flexibility to ensure that the next Cap programme would be one that we can actually have significant capacity to influence at national level and ensure that it works for our national agricultural model,” Mr McConalogue said.

Negotiators had hoped a deal would be reached this week, as talks to agree the Cap have dragged on for three years, running through multiple deadlines.

A Department of Agriculture spokesman said “further work was required” to reach agreement with the European Parliament and that the lead negotiator for the member states, Portuguese agriculture minister Maria do Céu Antunes, would meet MEPs Friday “to agree on next steps”.

“We want to close the deal, but not at any cost,” Ms do Céu Antunes tweeted.

EU agriculture commissioner Janusz Wojciechowski said a deal had been “very close” this week and expressed hope it would be possible to reach agreement before the end of the Portuguese presidency of the EU on June 30th.

The principal sticking point in the talks is how to reconcile the farming subsidies with the EU’s climate goals, to protect biodiversity and cut carbon emissions by 55 per cent compared to 1990 levels by 2030.

National governments have pushed to reduce the percentage of farming subsidies earmarked for so-called eco-schemes down to 25 per cent from 30 per cent. They have also pushed for “convergence” – a bid to introduce standard national payment rates instead of higher sums for certain land uses – to 85 per cent.

This is a key issue for the Irish Government as standardising payments would broadly reduce payments to large tillage and beef farmers in the south and east to the benefit of lower-output farmers in the west and north of the island.

Ireland is one of the last EU countries to bring in this policy, which has been phased in for nearly a decade, and TDs from large beef-finishing areas fear a backlash if the change is introduced.

The Irish Government has staked its hopes on securing enough flexibility in the rules that they can be tailored nationally to suit the current farming system and avoid a backlash.